Microaggressions have been described as brief, subtle exchanges that can be insulting or emotionally painful to the recipient. Microaggressions against Asian Americans often take the form of insults and jabs that are rooted in stereotypes. Stereotypes are exaggerated beliefs associated with a category (Allport, 1979). In the present study, we sought to analyze experiences of Asian Americans, as documented in the Twitter hashtag #ThisIs2016, which was an outpouring of experiences of racism from Asian Americans across the United States. In this paper, we report themes from the #ThisIs2016 hashtag that specifically relate to stereotypes about Asian Americans.
We analyzed 3,156 tweets that were posted between October 10, 2016 and December 2017. The conceptual framework used to analyze these tweets was Critical Race Theory, which recognizes that racism is endemic to American life and should not be regarded as an aberration. Critical race theorists also take the position that racism has both micro and macro components, taking on both individual and institutional forms. From this perspective, a particular narrative or story is told about Asian Americans. Utilizing this theoretical approach, four coders analyzed the dataset of tweets, using the qualitative data analysis program, Dedoose. The first 200 tweets were coded by all four coders to test inter-rater reliability.
The theme of stereotypes was coded 768 times across the dataset. Emergent themes on microaggressions against Asian Americans include stereotypes regarding: (1) appearance, such as eye shape, skin color and body size, (2) ability to speak English proficiently, (3) foods “typically” consumed by Asians, such as smelly fish or ramen noodles, (4) intelligence, skill and social aptitude, such as high performance in math, mastery of martial arts, and lack of good driving skills, (5) the exoticization of Asian American women as being sultry, mysterious, promiscuous, and (6) the demasculinization of Asian American men as being weak, timid and unattractive.
CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS
Our analysis reiterates the pervasiveness of stereotypes regarding Asian Americans in the United States. We also note that these experiences of microaggressions, discrimination, calling of racial slurs, and outright violence have an emotive impact on Asian American communities that have been largely unexamined in scholarship. Microaggressions against Asian American communities are often minimized in racial discourse, making these legitimate experiences of social exclusion feel invisible or ignored. Understanding the differences in stereotypes reported by Asian Americans may lead to further research that examines the impact that these stereotypes have on mental health and wellbeing.